MOSCOW – Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that two South Korean F-16 fighters had made unprofessional maneuvers by crossing the trajectory of Russian strategic planes, endangering their safety.
“On July 23, 2019, two strategic Russian Air Force Tu-95MS bombers were performing a scheduled flight over the neutral waters of the Japan Sea [also known as the East Sea],” the Russian ministry said.
The Kremlin also refuted the allegations of South Korean officials about the firing of “warning shots.”
“There was no ‘warning fire’ from the South Korean fighters. If the Russian pilots had felt a safety threat – the answer would not have been long,” the Russian department said.
“In the area of the Dokdo [Takeshima] Islands, two South Korean F-16 fighters approached the Russian aircraft, performing unprofessional maneuvers, crossing the trajectory of Russian strategic missile carriers and creating a threat to its safety. South Koreans pilots did not contact the crews of the Tu-95MS and, after firing the F-16’s thermal traps, carried out a maneuver away from the Russian planes,” added the Russian Defense Department.
Flight in compliance with international law
The ministry noted that “according to objective control data, the Tu-95MS plane’s route passed without deviations from the planned route, according to international rules at a distance of more than 25 km from the Dokdo [Takeshima] Islands, without violate South Korea’s airspace.
According to the ministry, this was not the first time that South Korean pilots unsuccessfully tried to stop Russian aviation flights over the neutral waters of the Japanese Sea.
The Russian communiqué points out that as regards the so-called “air defense identification zone” unilaterally established by the South Korean side, such zones “are not provided for in international rules and are not recognized by Russia, as has been repeatedly reported to the South Korean side via multiple channels.”
Overnight Tuesday, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said South Korean fighters fired a warning shot at a Russian military aircraft that had entered the country’s airspace.
The Russian Defense has repeatedly stated that all Russian military aircraft flights are in full compliance with international law and in accordance with the rules for the use of airspace in neutral waters.